If you’ve been keeping tabs on the development of the Akira remake over the past couple years, you know it has been a long and bumpy road up to this point. Warner Bros. has always remained committed to the property, though. According to Variety, the studio has finally made it official with a greenlight for a $90 million budget and an eye toward a late February/early March start date. The report confirms that Jaume Collett-Serra (Unknown) will direct, and provides this synopsis for the Steve Kloves script:
Set in New Manhattan, the cyberpunk sci-fi epic follows the leader of a biker gang who must save his friend, discovered with potentially destructive psychokinetic abilities, from government medical experiments.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson Killoran are producing for Appian Way alongside Andrew Lazar, representing Mad Chance. Katsuhiro Otomo, the man behind the Akira manga and the writer/director of the 1988 anime adaptation, will executive produce the remake. More after the jump. [Update: …including a comment on the news that Tron: Legacy star Garrett Hedlund’s is the frontrunner for one of the lead roles.]
If Warner Bros. wants to get this in front of cameras by the spring they still need to, you know, cast this thing. The studio was long in search of a big name or two—Brad Pitt, James Franco, Zac Efron, and Keanu Reeves were among the many rumored candidates—but has so far come up empty. My gut says we hear a casting announcement in the next week or so. Unfortunately, my gut also says that no casting announcement can possibly overcome our general unease at the idea of a Akira remake transplanted to “New Manhattan,” written in such a way that Keanu Reeves could have starred.
[Update: After I hit “Publish,” Variety updated the report with the news that Hedlund is a frontrunner for one of the two lead roles. No offer has been made yet, but WB and Collett-Serra are reportedly keen on the young actor. Variety doesn’t specify, but Hedlund was previously linked to the role of Kaneda in a shortlist. In case this means that shortlist is credible, here’s the list of actors identified for Tetsuo: Robert Pattinson, Andrew Garfield, James McAvoy.
So, is your unease settled? Mine isn’t, and I liked Hedlund in Tron: Legacy more than most of our readers. Let’s wait until the news is official, and see who they cast as Tetsuo. But man, this is going to be a tough sell to film geeks (the hypothetical Hedlundization) and general audiences (the uniquely Japanese weirdness).]
Here’s the synopsis for Volume 1 of the manga:
Akira is set in the post-apocalypse Neo-Tokyo of 2019, a vast metropolis built on the ashes of a Tokyo annihilated by an apocalyptic blast of unknown power that triggered World War III. The lives of two streetwise teenage friends, Tetsuo and Kaneda, change forever when dormant paranormal abilities begin to waken in Tetsuo, who becomes a target for a shadowy government operation, a group who will stop at nothing to prevent another catastrophe like that which leveled Tokyo. And at the core of their motivation is a raw, all-consuming fear: a fear of someone — or something — of unthinkably monstrous power known only as… Akira. And Akira is about to rise! [Amazon]